Saving The Best For Last? Review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

We’re going to do something a little different here, faithful readers. I feel that I can’t express what I like and dislike about this movie without giving away spoilers. So, for the first time in one of my reviews, I’m going to spoil major plot points to the movie! Now, for those of you who have yet to see it, I’m going to give you my star review up front. If that’s all you want to know, stop right there and go see the movie before coming back and reading the rest of my review. That being said, I give “The Last Jedi” three stars out of five. It’s not better than any of the original trilogy, and it’s not better than “The Force Awakens”, but it is better than “Rogue One” and any of the prequel trilogy movies. When it comes to seeing this movie in theatres, my advice is to see it twice, once to experience it with fresh eyes, and a second time to really soak it in with a more critical eye. However, you should only go during matinee fees, or with some kind of gift card. While worth seeing overall, this movie is not worth paying full price for. Alrighty then, onto the spoilers. This is your final warning. Seriously, I’m about to give away everything, including the ending.

Okay, for those of you who are still with us, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a mixed bag. I’m a fan of Rian Johnson, having seen all of his other movies, “Brick”, “The Brothers Bloom”, and “Looper”. He’s a talented writer, and a creative director, so I wanted to see what he would do when given the chance to play in the ultimate cinematic sandbox that is the Star Wars Universe. Some of his choices work, while others don’t. Picking up where “The Force Awakens” left off, Rey (played by the lovely and overdressed Daisy Ridley) has found Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill in the highest profile movie he’s been in since “Return of the Jedi”) and must convince him to train her in the ways of the Force. However, Luke has turned into a human version of Oscar the Grouch, and wants nothing to do with the Jedi, the Force, or anything that is going wrong in the universe. Yes, he has gone full grumpy, “get off of my lawn”, “old man yells at cloud” mode for this installment. Rey is also haunted by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who can now communicate with her through the Force, to the point they can even physically interact with one other.

Elsewhere, General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), are trying to rally the remains of the Resistance against the First Order, who are breathing down their necks. Finn (John Boyega) wakes up from the coma he was left in, and goes on a side quest to a planet called Canto Bite, to find a means to disable a tracking device that the First Order are using to find the base of the Resistance. He’s joined by Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a fellow maintenance crew member, whose sister died in dogfight with the First Order. So right away, we have parallels of “The Empire Strikes Back”, with all of protagonists being split into teams and doing their own thing.

I’ll start with the movie’s shortcomings. Many of these might be considered nit-picking to some, but I think they are problematic enough to make or break the movie for others. Leia survives. Yeah, that’s going to make the last installment to this trilogy awkward. She’s alive and well by the end of this movie, so I don’t see how they will explain her absence in the next movie. Not unless the opening scroll will read “Leia Organa has died peacefully in her sleep”. Honestly, the studio had a full year to do reshoots and careful editing to give Leia a grand finale, but they chose not to. There is a scene of the Resistance’s main ship being attacked, and Leia being sucked out into outer space as a result. It’s here where one of the movie’s biggest twists takes place, as Leia is able to use the Force to pull herself back onto the ship. It’s kinda jarring to see, especially when you consider this is the second time this year that Disney has released a space opera movie with a character floating around in space. I’m talking of course about “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2”. Needless to say, this scene will probably have lots of Marvel fans yelling out “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!”. Or it might give older audience members flashbacks of Sally Field as the Flying Nun. Leia then slips into a coma, but wakes up in time for the third and final act. In my humble opinion, they should have had her die while in said coma. Now the writers will have to think of proper way to give the character a send off, without having to use a CGI likeness in this trilogy’s final installment. It’s a wasted opportunity, but that’s just my opinion.

The entire subplot with Canto Bite is a dumpster fire of a hot mess. It turns out, the planet is a giant, intergalactic casino. For a split second, I thought that Disney bought Lionsgate while no one was looking, because the scenery looked like something out of the Capitol from “The Hunger Games”! You could have taken this whole sequence, removed it, and edited it into any one of the prequel movies, and it would have fit there perfectly. Yikes! Not to mention, it does nothing for the story as whole, and is outright cheesy at times. Finn and Rose meet a shady character named DJ (Benicio Del Toro being his usual, mumbly Benicio Del Toro self). DJ gets the duo onto a First Order ship, and then betrays them for money. That’s it. That’s all they do with Del Toro. Yeah, underwritten much?

Meanwhile, Rey and Luke are annoying the hell out of each other. Rey has a badass lightsaber training scene that ends with a bit of humor, and then copies “Empire” again, by going into a mysterious place that gives her an eerie vision about herself. From there, it goes into “Return of the Jedi” territory, as Rey goes to confront Kylo Ren by herself, and is taken to see Supreme Leader Snoke. From there, Snoke tries to, you guessed it, convince Rey to join the dark side, even if it means using the Force to kill her in the process. This leads to, you guessed it, Kylo turning against Snoke, and killing him. At the very least, before all this happens, we get to see the answer to the age-old question “what happens if your ship were to hit something while traveling in light speed?”. That is quite possibly the most visually stunning scene in the whole movie, and it saves the Holdo character, who was otherwise useless, outside of verbally castrating Poe every chance she gets.

Lastly, we have a final act on Crait, or as I call it, “the planet that bleeds”, for what looks very much like the Battle of Hoth from “Empire”, except the planet is covered in salt instead of snow. Finn, who easily bested Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie, whose role is even more wasted here than Del Toro’s) in a fight just two scenes earlier, attempts a suicide mission against the new AT-AT Walkers and a “battering ram cannon”, but is saved at the last second by Rose, who then proclaims her love for him. And just when it seems that all hope is lost, Rey and Luke show up to save the day. While these are all neat visuals, it’s all rather predictable.

Now, before I go into a further tirade over what the movie did wrong, here’s a few things that I liked. I thought Luke got a proper send off. It was a callback to the scene in “A New Hope”, as he looked upon the twin Suns of Tatooine. Speaking of which, there’s another, more fun callback to “New Hope” between Luke and R2-D2. Luke has one last saber fight against Kylo Ren (unfortunately, without his green saber), which turns out to be one big Force projection, and then he fades away like Obi-Wan and Yoda before him. Some people might complain that’s not good enough of a death, to which I say, how did you want him to die, have his head cut off by Kylo?! Some fans might even disapprove of Luke being killed off, period, but frankly, I had a feeling this trilogy was going to end with all of the legacy characters being dead, and it seems I was right. Overall, the use of Crait’s “bleeding” effect is put to good use, and we even got to see Luke interact with Leia and C3PO one last time.

The duel between Kylo and Rey against Snoke’s guards is fun. It brings new weaponry to the lightsaber duels, and lightsaber duels are the number one reason why I continue to watch Star Wars movies. Unfortunately, this sequence doesn’t top the visuals of the three-way duel from “The Phantom Menace”, nor does it have the emotional storytelling of Luke vs Darth Vader from “Empire” or “Jedi”. Also, Rey’s shirt isn’t cut in half, like with Padme’s during “Attack of the Clones”. Yes, that’s not really something to hold against the movie, but come on, Daisy Ridley worked hard to get into shape for this movie; you might as well let her abs out, and show off the fruits of her labor. I’m glad that the scene ends with the old, blue Skywalker lightsaber being destroyed. As I mentioned above, I prefer the green saber that Luke debuted in “Jedi”, and while we do get to see it in this movie, it’s not put to use in a duel. Hopefully Rey will get an unique saber of her own in the next movie, preferably a purple colored, pike one.

The porgs, those rat/bird things that people are hating on for no reason. For the most part, they are cute and inoffensive. They are never mentioned by name, and they have no reason for being in the movie besides some cheap laughs and more merchandise to sell to little kids. That being said, I don’t hate them all. In fact, I forgot about them quite easily mere hours after seeing the movie. So on the scale of annoying things in Star Wars that were meant only to appeal to small children, porgs are dead last. Ewoks are in the middle, mostly because at least they couldn’t talk and they served a purpose for the overall story arch of the movie. JarJar Binks, of course, ranks number one for being the absolute worst thing made by the Star Wars movies (I repeat, the movies, the Christmas Special doesn’t count). In other words, don’t worry about the porgs ruining the movie like JarJar in the prequels, because they didn’t. Although, overall, BB-8 remains the MVP of cuteness and scene stealing, just like he was in “Force Awakens”.

And, in a bit of fan service, we get a guest appearance by Force ghost Yoda. And even better, it’s puppet Yoda, not CGI Yoda. It’s good for a laugh and a bit of nostalgia. I’ve already heard fans complain over why Force ghost Obi-Wan wasn’t there, too, but there’s the little fact that Alec Guinness has been dead for nearly two decades now, and there was a backlash over using CGI to bring Peter Cushing back to life as Grand Moff Tarkin in “Rogue One”. And if they used Ewan McGregor as young Obi-Wan, that probably would have caused a backlash, too, because it wouldn’t make sense for Obi-Wan’s Force ghost to de-age for no reason. To this day, I consider using the young version of Anakin Skywalker’s Force ghost for the final scene of “Jedi” to be the dumbest addition to the special editions of the original trilogy. Yes, even more so than not having Han shoot first in “New Hope”.

Now back to the bad stuff. To me, the movie’s biggest letdowns are not answering any of the questions that were set up by “The Force Awakens”. Who is Snoke? Doesn’t matter, he’s killed off before we know anything about him. Who are Rey’s parents? Doesn’t matter, they are dismissed simply as “drunks in a peasant’s grave on Jakku”. Surely Captain Phasma will be given more time to be a badass. Oh no, she’s killed off after having less than ten minutes of screentime. Surely they will explore more of that vision that Rey had in which the Knights of Ren attacked the Jedi Temple that Luke was in charge of. Nope, they skip over that and just say Kylo did it by himself. Yeah, if you were like me, and were looking forward to these mystery plot points being answered after waiting for two years, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

Some might say I’m just being a whiny fanboy, but I see this as lazy, even downright bad storytelling. Consider if you, the cliffhanger of “Empire Strikes Back”, with Han being taken away to Jabba the Hutt. Now imagine if “Return of the Jedi” started with Han already being rescued and everyone acting like nothing happened. Or even worse, imagine if Han didn’t appear in the movie at all, and everyone was acting like he was never part of the trilogy in the first place. That’s what these “reveals” feel like. It’s as though Rian Johnson couldn’t care less about what JJ Abrams was setting up, so he just shot down everything he was supposed to follow through on. Some fans will point out these parallels to “Jedi”, in which The Emperor was killed off without knowing anything about him, just like Snoke. That it makes sense for Luke to become a broken hermit, because that’s what happened to Obi-Wan and Yoda. That Captain Phasma being killed off in an underwhelming manner, same as with Boba Fett is okay, and that we didn’t know about Luke’s mother, so it’s alright that we know nothing about Rey’s parents. Frankly, after three decades since the original trilogy, we shouldn’t have such mistakes and plot holes being made again.

Not going to lie, I was betting money that Rey was going to be the granddaughter of Obi-Wan, or that Snoke was going to be the reincarnation of Darth Plagueis the Wise. Instead, this movie says “Nope, those are trivial details that don’t matter. We’re moving onto the next scene without developing anything else. If you want more backstory, buy and read our spin-off novels”. I think that’s kicking the fans right in the nuts. All this information is obviously being withheld on purpose because the real answers are going to be revealed in the final trilogy installment, or other tie-in movies. Frankly, I consider that as stringing the audience along, and I don’t like.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this movie. It’s still entertaining, and it brings new ideas to the franchise. My main problems with it are with the creative choices that were made. If you made me choose between watching this movie or any of the prequels or “Rogue One”, I would gladly watch this movie. Yes, Disney is making questionable decisions with Star Wars, but I don’t think they are ruining the franchise, as Lucas did that himself with the special editions that hardly improve upon the movies, or the prequels that only resulted in causing plot holes and errors within the entire saga. And before you say “Oh, they should have just gone with Lucas’ proposed ideas for the this new trilogy”, well surprise, Luke going into exile was Lucas’ idea, so don’t blame the Disney approved writers’ room for that one. If you ask me, none of these steps should have been taken. No special editions, no prequels, no selling the rights to Disney. Lucas should have just adapted the Thrawn Trilogy novels, and hired other directors to make them. Those novels are what rekindled interest in Star Wars in the first place, and Lucas wouldn’t have had to come up with new stories, because they were right there for him to copy from. But hey, history turned out differently, and this is the Star Wars we have, like it or not.

I know I came across as a hater during most of this review, but after all, this is Star Wars were talking about. It’s a major touchstone in cinematic history. Entire lives and the movie industry as a whole were altered by the making and watching of these movies. Now forty years later, these movies will continue to alter the lives of those who had a hand in creating them, and those who watch them. Some people would argue “these are just movies”, or “they’re just two hour long toy ads for children”, but I would argue back, “no, they are something much more to millions of people, you’re just not getting it”. The saga will continue, warts and all. Chances are, you will die before the movie franchise will come to an end. It’s up to you to consider that a good thing, or a bad thing. But hell no, I’m not paying for a seperate Disney based streaming service in the event they finally do create a live action Star Wars TV series. Either you put that thing on Hulu, or I’ll just torrent it online! I maybe a Star Wars fan, but even I have my limits! See you next time.

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